The Calm Kitchen: Trust Your Intuition

I am so happy to be sharing our first Calm Kitchen column by the lovely Joanna Bourke from Dublin, Ireland. I met Joanna when she reached out to me regarding her website and in the process of designing a new site for her we became friends. I love her approach to food and eating, and she recently completed the course Applying Intuitive Eating and Non-Diet Approaches in Practice with Dr. Laura Thomas, which has been endorsed by the Association for Nutrition.

As you know, Intuitive Eating is an integral part of my Intuitive Dieting approach so when Joanna agreed to host a regular column on The Reluctant Cook I was thrilled. A lot of Intuitive Eating proponents consider themselves 'weight-neutral' which is slightly different from ID which incorporates weight-loss goals for health reasons. Nonetheless, my ultimate desire is to become an Intutive Eater because I know that my body knows what's best, I just feel very disconnected from those intuitive messages. My knowledge of IE is rather superficial and I look forward to learning more about it from Joanna, and also to start praticing the ten principles more intentionally.

 The Calm Kitchen・Trust your Intuition | The Reluctant Cook

By Joanna

My first Calm Kitchen class took place last November in the prep kitchen of a cafe in Dublin. The cafe is well known for their fermented food products and the kitchen was alive with fermenting vinegars and drinks bubbling away on the shelves around us, a perfect environment to talk about slowing down and de-stressing through cooking.

The idea for The Calm Kitchen had evolved over the previous years working as a private chef and cooking at yoga and coaching retreats. While cooking at retreats, women were drawn to the kitchen for tea and chats about food.

It was clear that there was a lot of emotion held around food - guilt, shame, anxiety about what they were eating, what foods were good or bad, their bodies and diets, what to cook for their families etc...

We're bombarded with information from the media on the latest miracle-working superfood and scaremongering about the foods that should be avoided at all costs. While we have never watched more cookery shows, or scrolled more food pics on Instagram, there is a lot of anxiety about what we should be eating.

When it comes to eating, I believe that we all know intuitively, deep down in a physical sense, what works for us. What foods make us feel good, satisfied or nourished. How much we need to eat, at various times of the day, to be at our most energised and productive. This knowledge is stored in our bodies and there are tools that we can use to help us to tune into our intuition.

Using our intuition is about accessing our gut feeling, instead of our brain.

Our brain might tell us that we should eat X number of calories per day, or that we shouldn't eat past a certain time. But our body signals to us how much food we really need, when, and what would feel good to eat at particular times. This is the concept of Intuitive Eating, and I introduce this as an anti-diet approach to eating in my classes. Intuitive Eating is characterised by having a strong connection with your body's hunger and fullness signals, rather than eating on external or emotional cues. It recognises that foods serve a variety of purposes in our lives (taste, energy, comfort and joy) that are dependent on the context and situation.

In their book, Intuitive Eating, Tribole and Resch identified the ten principles of Intuitive Eating:

  1. Reject the diet mentality
  2. Honour your hunger
  3. Make peace with food
  4. Challenge the food police
  5. Feel your fullness
  6. Finding the satisfaction factor (and mindful eating)
  7. Honour your feelings without food
  8. Respect your body
  9. Exercise - feel the difference
  10. Honour your health with gentle nutrition

When I learned about the concept of Intuitive Eating it made a lot of sense to me. It acknowledges that every body is individual with different dietary needs. Research has shown that diets don't work (it's estimated that only 20% of participants who complete weight management interventions maintain weight loss past 1 year).

Biologically, your body experiences the dieting process as a form of starvation. Your cells don’t know you are voluntarily restricting your food intake. You body shifts into primal survival mode - metabolism shuts down and food cravings escalate. And with each diet, the body learns and adapts, resulting in rebounding wight gain. Consequently, many of our patients feel like they are a failure - but it is dieting that has failed them.
— Tribole and Resch, Intuitive Eating

So, digging into the principles of Intuitive Eating has given me a new perspective on how we can have a peaceful relationship with food. Because for me, that is the point. It goes beyond what we cook or eat. Diet culture is so seeped into our brains that the mental calculations of what we should or shouldn't eat are par for the course. It takes up space in our brain that could be used in more fulfilling, or just more enjoyable, ways.

Food shouldn't be our enemy, but there is work to do to deconstruct the diet mentality and fear around food that abounds in our culture.  

In this column, I'll be digging deeper into these principles and how we can apply them to our lives. I'd love to hear from you on this, if it's something that you've heard of or tried, or if would like to learn more? Let me know!

 Joanna Bourke・The Calm Kitchen・The Reluctant Cook

Joanna Bourke is a Life Coach and Ballymaloe-trained cook. After several years working for a global tech company in Silicon Valley, she left to follow her passion for food and cooking. She has cooked at yoga and business retreats in Ireland and France, and hosts a workshop called The Calm Kitchen - focused on the mental health benefits of cooking and Intuitive Eating.